This week my Very Tall Boy went to college. After researching many schools, applying to several, being accepted to a few, he chose one. Connor is now a George Mason University Patriot! Go green and gold.
As all my fellow Mom’s out there know, this is a time of smiles and tears. As instructed by those who have gone before me, I brought my tissues but did my best to hold them back.
My Very Tall Boy and I had toured the Fairfax, VA campus about five months or so ago, for accepted students weekend. It was then that he decided GMU was the place for him, and we started making arrangements.
I Thought I Had Tons of Time
When my kids were born, 16 months apart, everyone told me, “It just goes by so fast!” and of course I was like, “What? my kids? nah, they are going to be slow growers… 18 years is FOREVER.” (I mean, I had not done ANYTHING for 18 years at that point in my life) and then poof!
Just like that.
My Dancing Daughter left for college over two years ago (already), she’s going to be a junior at Marymount Manhattan College next month, where she’s earning her BFA.
Yes, it goes by fast. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t slow the hands of time.
My Little Man
My Very Tall Boy was once My Little Man. As we dragged his belongings up the hill (yes there are HILLS in Virginia) amongst 4000 other incoming freshman, My thoughts drifted…it felt like just yesterday that he was a tiny boy running and jumping around, getting dirty, giving big kisses, and pulling me in for strong hugs. “I love you Mommy!”
I had to let my mind drift in order to not think about my cramped hands and elbows, dragging his bags up the hill to Jefferson Hall. We flew from Florida and took an Uber to his dorm. Nothing has ever been typical or traditional with us!
Connor went to preschool at Star Child Academy, where they taught him all his colors, how to read, how to sing in Japanese, and how to work the computer. (I believe all we did was sit) HIs best friend was Imani (above) and they were inseparable, they even joined Saturday soccer together where we were lucky enough to get to know her family.
Connor and Imani graduated Star Child Academy and advanced to kindergarten at Sabal Point Elementary together, where they were leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. Star Child Academy had prepared seven out of the 18 kids in that very kindergarten class –the teacher didn’t know what to do with them because she said “They already know everything I’m supposed to teach them!”
My Very Tall Boy has been a sponge for knowledge ever since.
As we stacked his things outside the big wood door, next to concrete block walls and indoor-outdoor carpet… I had a flash back to my own college experience as an incoming freshman at Syracuse University. Go orange!
I think it was at that point that I felt like I was all going to be OK. Although I had been fighting back tears for days, at this point, I realized I needed to be happy for him. My Very Tall Boy was on the horizon of an amazing experience and I had prepared him well–– It was time to focus on his happiness rather than my sadness.
It was time to let him go.
My Very Tall boy set up his tech while I sorted and folded his clothing; we both worked on what we knew best. (Yeah, that’s an SU sweatshirt on top!) I organized his closet in a way that I know it will never be again… and he put his computer on the WiFi and set up his colorful gaming keyboard and mouse.
“We need hangers, add that to your list.” I said, it landed on deaf ears.
Time to Say Goodbye
We went to Panera after we moved him all in, where I got a bowl of Summer Corn Chowder and My Very Tall Boy got a Coke. He was informed that there was a floor dinner at 5pm in the dining hall and so he wanted to save his appetite. I walked him back to his meeting place and pulled him in for a hug. My Little Man smiled big at me and hugged me tight, just like he was a little boy. “It’s going to be OK Mom, I’m going to be OK.” He said, as he smiled at me. And I put on my very best positive face, I said “Be good, have fun, enjoy this time.”
And then I said.. “Don’t forget about me.” And the tears just tumbled down underneath my glasses.
I couldn’t help it. I tried so hard.
But I smiled through my tears, I gave him a big hug and I made my way down the hill with my empty suitcase. I looked back but he was already on his way to the dinner meeting place.
My Very Tall Boy was ready for this next phase of his life.
A New Journey
After I left my Very Tall Boy, I returned to my hotel room and tried to immerse myself in my computer work, and early to bed. I would made my way to the Amtrak station en route to Maryland, the next morning. Off I was to visit a friend in Baltimore–I needed a shoulder to cry on and a distraction to help keep me from focusing on my new empty nest.
A three bedroom house for one person is sort of an empty ostrich nest.
I noticed this letter box at the Union Station post office where I stopped to send My Little Man a card via snail mail. “Mom, I’m not sure why you are so focused on sending people ‘paper mail’, nobody does that.” he had said to me earlier in the week.
I told him I’m marching to the beat of my own drum. Just in case he hadn’t noticed. (He smiled big at me, in that way he does when he wants me to know that he thinks I’m weird. )
I know that I am not the first Mom on this empty nest journey. As you know, I use hand writing in my work on a regular basis. Would you consider sharing your story and sending it via snail mail so that I could incorporate it into my collage artwork?
If you would write about your own experience in black ball paint, fade proof (lightfast) permanent marker, or pencil, on a decent quality paper… I could weave it into my collage artwork and I’d LOVE to have it. Tell me about your story of delivering your child to college, letting go, and empty nest.
I’d love to hear your story on paper, and I promise to write you back:
Elizabeth St. Hilaire
301 Nebraska Ave
Longwood, FL 32750
A nice example of handwriting in my work:
for being a part of my